"This ain't the garden of Eden
There ain't no angels above
And things ain't what they used to be
And this ain't the summer of love"
Whoa, this is hard. When my exalted friend and fellow co-conspirator suggested to me we should create our own playlist of summer tunes, I was well up for it. After getting back from two weeks holidays in the Highlands with plenty of this blog’s titular wine, women (lady company, not romantic encounters you understand, I’m a happily un-married man) and song; first thing I did was to create a playlist on my good old computer music management software -that will tactfully go unnamed- of all the songs I’d listened to from the moment my holiday began (7am three weeks before), getting on for 800 songs dontchaknow, and there are way more summer-in-the-city albums that just don’t feel at home in the Highland hills. A tall order? A six foot eight order who’s had a few too many pints with his Rugby playing mates. Nevertheless, I did get it pared down to a manageable few lists. The big problem was picking a mood. What moment of summer should my playlist encapsulate? The sun-drenched barbeque? The cold night time shenanigans that inevitably occur? Solitude, rest and relaxation? Finally I decided, so here goes, the playlist best enjoyed with an ice-cold sweating glass of apple cider and a soft roll filled with grilled beef burger as the sun seems to be shining through all the skin it touches. This playlist goes very well with company. We provide the song, you’ve got to get the wine and the women (or men, not judging). I’ve gone for all electric, all blasting head trip. Special mentions go out to Bossanova by the Pixies and K by Kula Shaker.
The opening was easy, there was only one candidate. The utter mind blower, mister Robert Zimmerman himself. This is an incredible song in all of its countless incantations but this is the most superb. Described by Joe Boyd at the time as ‘the loudest thing anyone had ever heard’, Dylan’s transfer into the murky brotherhood of electricity was the subject of outrage and has become one of rocks truly historic moments. The recording is only available on the Bootleg Series, Volume 7, No Direction Home Soundtrack. You can hear all of the nervous energy of Dylan and the men around him as he makes such a definite and divisive leap forward. A brave version of a song that ex-president Jimmy Carter describes as having begun his understanding of “the proper interrelationship between the land owner and those who work on a farm”. Most of all, it’s a nice song when you have time off work and studies and everything. It’s almost passed into common parlance, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.
The key with any good compilation or mix-tape is to start out with a bang, and then switch it up a gear, and in that spirit I am proceeding. I’ll recount more than one song at once, as they are kind of grouped and so as not to take up hours and hours of your time. To kick things up a notch we have the relentlessly kick-beat and energetic Barroom Hero. After that, following on from Maggie’s Farm and Barroom Hero, we have yet another electric folk song from Norway, Korpiklaani are famed for their ‘alcoholic metal’ and Cottages and Saunas is the finest example of it. These two songs comprise the end of the electric folk trio, but do lead neatly on to the next little batch.
It’s time to drop the octane level a little bit and step into cruising gear. The car that is this album has raced through the suburbs away from home and has just taken the open road, time for a song that expresses that. What better than the song that started possibly the greatest road movie of them all, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. To the foot-tappingly catchy opening line that saw Depp and Del Toro hurtling across the desert, so it should propel you into an excited and elated but cruising kind of happiness. Enjoy Janis. The next two feed into this somewhat. Sadistic electronic masterpieces from a time before high quality production sharpened guitar sound. Summertime Blues, though a cover, is of course the perfect song for summer, and I feel the Blue Cheer version is the greatest version of it. The thick riffs and psyched-out vocals pave the way for the whole of psychadelia. Soul Kitchen bridges the psychadelia with the rest of the album by being more mellow, simpler and quieter. By now you should have eaten up your barbeque food and be settling down for a long lie in the grass with some cold drinks and good company. Maybe you’ll be asking to sleep all night in someone’s soul kitchen.
What follows, from the Chain through to Janie Jones, I’d term the Relaxation suite. Twelve minutes (enough to finish a drink, am I right?) of chilled out music, dancing between psychadelia and straight rock; touching on dancing, love and with more than a few cool breakdowns. Despite writing a thousand words about Agalloch, I am very much a Fleetwood Mac fan. No band has really come close to matching them sonically until Pure Reason Revolution and the Chain features the killer breakdown that recalls the middle moment of Freebird (which sadly didn’t make it into this list) and was reckoned so great that the Formula 1 coverage until recently used extracts from it in their opening credits. Yep, it is still that awesome. Today is still just perfect, a chilled out moment for the ‘Plane and one of their more underappreciated gems. John, I’m Only Dancing is simply an energetic masterclass, ‘She turns me on/but I’m only dancing’, is it about homosexuality? Does it have wider things to say about commitment and sexuality in our modern world? Possibly, but it’s also damn great. It is also necessary, or else Today might drag people into a funk, can’t have that on a summer evening. Janie Jones is the best song by the Clash and a sleeper sing along classic waiting to be reawakened on a party game like Singstar (as Mississippi Queen was for Guitar Hero).
The next section (the whole album, I hope, goes through a series of dips and highs and moods and swings, but yeah) uses Sabbath’s catchiest tune, Never Say Die, to bridge between Janie Jones and the more ambient and atmospheric rather than catchy songs. Both George Square Thatcher Death Party and Third Stone From the Sun are really great. Just cool songs to chill to in the summer, man; what else do you really want?
After that, it’s time for the final rush of catchy summer material before the end and runs like a glorious chain. When the Levee Breaks moves directly into Blood, which is quicker still and it’s immediate catchiness and bouncy enjoyability move right into the climax of the album (for me), Free Country, by Witchfinder General. A New Wave of British heavy metal band that was really overlooked at the time and have come more into their own as cult listening. Free Country is their unappreciated masterpiece, where they broke from the cod-religious nonsense of their peers and did something truly great. A pro-drugs song with a safe message: Don’t do bummer drugs man. ‘Let’s trip on LSD... Let’s drink some mushroom tea... Amphetamine is real good speed...’ a really energetic, fun song to climax the playlist. It’s up to 5-Track to play us out.
Only showcasing his vocal talent next to his guitar prowess recently, 5-Track doesn’t aspire to be this century’s Dylan but succeeds anyway (check out Blues for Horselover Fat if you don’t believe me), though the track that plays us out is his chilled summer afternoon straight chiller song, He’s Not Dead, He’s just in Texas. Calling forth memories of Gomez, of nineties Britpop tied up in a more American aesthetic, hopefully this’ll see you onto whatever you want to listen to next. Be it another chilled album or something to dance to in order to see you into the nightside. Enjoy, malaho.
My playlist was a little different from Adam’s, he took the idea of summer songs, I try to think of music in terms of moments. Neither of us are wrong (well, I might well be). What I’m most proud of around this playlist is that it all holds together pretty well (it is intended to be listened to in this order after all) despite the massive leaps back and forward through time and across genre and production. What makes me proud enough of it to make it the one that I actually show you guys is that it seems far longer than the actual length; because if there’s anything we can agree on about summer, it’s that it doesn’t last nearly long enough. Hopefully my playlist will make your hour and ten seem like an entire afternoon of good times.
Let us know what you think, and what your favourite summer songs are.
Maggie’s Farm (Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1965) – Bob Dylan
Barroom Hero – the Dropkick Murphys
Cottages & Saunas – Korpiklaani
Combination of the Two – Big Brother and the Holding Company
Summertime Blues – Blue Cheer
Soul Kitchen – the Doors
The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
Today – Jefferson Airplane
John, I’m Only Dancing – David Bowie
Janie Jones – the Clash
Never Say Die – Black Sabbath
Third Stone From the Sun – the Jimi Hendrix Experience
George Square Thatcher Death Party – Mogwai
When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
Blood – Priestess
Free Country – Witchfinder General
He’s Not Dead, He’s Just in Texas – 5-Track
Total playtime [1:07:51]
Compiled under duress by Steven